Public Policy Dean: Focus on Jobs Must Include Trade Agenda
January 24, 2011 – The United States must decide on a clear trade agenda in order to solve the job crisis, says Georgetown Public Policy Institute Dean Edward Montgomery, as he reflects on major policy issues the day before the State of the Union.
“There are many people who think that the trade agenda got put on the backburner because of the state of the economy,” Montgomery says, “and that it wasn’t feasible to bring up expanding trade and free trade treaties in the context of rising unemployment and a deep recession.”
But he says President Obama has pointed out that creating jobs requires stimulating growth in exports.
“The question is – what will be the president’s trade agenda?” Montgomery says. “Will he get the Korean trade package through and how will he resuscitate a trade agenda in regard to Chile, Latin America and other areas where pacts have been negotiated but have languished?”
Job creation also requires overhaul in several related areas, including tax and regulatory reform and the country’s trade agenda, the dean explains.
He notes that Obama must confront these issues while working with a new Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a skeptical public.
“The issue is balancing the domestic reality of the incredible nervousness and concern about jobs, and the benefits and challenges associated with a more forward-leaning trade agenda,” Montgomery says.
Beyond the Economy
Other pressing social issues, such as immigration and education reform, also must be addressed, Montgomery says, as well as energy and environmental issues. He says the sectors dovetail together in any policy debate.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if oil prices continue to rise throughout the year, which will prompt more conversations about what we’re doing with the supply of energy and the cost of energy,” Montgomery says. “Anything you do on the energy front has a corollary about what’s happening on the environmental front. Energy use is highly connected to climate change and to a variety of environmental issues.”
Obama is unlikely to get any major climate change legislation through Congress, the dean says. And Republicans also will put more pressure on the administration to tighten spending and continue to try and overturn all or part of the health care reform law.
“The challenge is that [Obama] did pretty well when he controlled the House and Senate. The question is, how well will he do when he doesn’t have that luxury?” Montgomery says. “That will be the ultimate test for him – is he able to protect his accomplishments to date and keep making positive steps in the next two years?”